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What is understanding...

Updated: Aug 27, 2022

Gadamer (1975) took philosophical hermeneutics further, asking how people come to understand. For Gadamer, understanding occurs through historical awareness, presuppositions, openness to the meaning of others, and a fusion of horizons (Koch, 1995).

Historical awareness is learning to understand ourselves better and recognise that, in all understanding, whether we are expressly aware of it or not, the efficacy of history is at work (Gadamer, 1975: 300).

Presuppositions include preunderstandings, prejudices and beliefs (Heidegger 1927/1962: Gadamer, 1975).

Openness to the meaning of others does not mean that when we listen to someone or read a book we must forget all our presuppositions concerning the content and all our own ideas (Gadamer, 1975: 271).

Fusion of horizons is to learn to look beyond what is close at hand, not in order to look away from it but to see it better, within a larger whole and in truer proportion (Gadamer, 1975: 304).

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